This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Cape Cod Times article on the Mashpee Wampanoag's current financial situation.
Mashpee Wampanoag elders gather outside tribal headquarters yesterday, seeking information about the tribe's finances since Chairman Cedric Cromwell took over.
By George Brennan
Cape Cod Times
By George Brennan
September 24, 2009
MASHPEE — Nine tribe elders staged a sit-in at Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Headquarters yesterday, a second attempt in as many days to get answers about how the tribe's money is spent.
The elders were inside when tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell arrived with his wife, Cheryl Frye Cromwell, just after 9:30 a.m., but never confronted him. Instead, Cromwell was greeted by hugs and well-wishes from a half-dozen tribe members, one of them kissing him on his cheek, saying, "Hang in there."
The elders, referring to themselves as the "Golden Elders" because they are all over 62, say tribe financial records are unclear and incomplete.
The elders released a copy of them yesterday that shows the tribe's general fund at just over $200,000 as of May. It also indicates that some funds from an education grant may have been deposited in the tribe's general fund.
Cromwell said the tribal council is trying to sort through the financial mess it inherited from a previous administration. Those leaders left office amid a financial scandal that landed former Chairman Glenn Marshall in federal prison for embezzling money from the tribe's casino investors.
That's just an excuse, said Patricia Oakley, the tribe's former genealogist, who organized the rally. "We're not here to talk about previous administrations. We're talking about now," she said. "We've come here to get answers and if we don't get them today, we'll be back tomorrow."
Several of the elders assembled yesterday were either employed by or on the tribal council with the previous administrations. Chief among them are Oakley, who was fired after Cromwell took over, former tribe treasurer Nellie Ramos and former tribal council member Norman Dias.
In recent months, the tribe's investors on a proposed Middleboro Indian casino have stopped making payments and the tribe's relationship with them is in limbo, further depleting the tribe's funds.
"The backers dumped us," elder Ann Peters Brown said. "They don't want to have anything to do with us."
While elders complained that the financial reports only go through May, Cromwell said that's because the tribe is doing an audit to determine if any grant funds were misappropriated. "If any money was spent from grants on things that they shouldn't have been spent on, we're going to self-report on it," he said.
Elders also complained the tribe is no longer funding youth programs or the food pantry.
The tribal council has had to make difficult budget cuts, including temporarily halting those programs, Cromwell said.
Other cuts include suspending his pay and the pay of other tribal council members, he said. "It was the right thing to do until we can get through this tough fiscal and financial time," he said.
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